Home Shows Lost Works of Robert Bonaparte

This exclusive exhibition unveils the breathtaking oeuvre of one of Oklahoma's most enigmatic artists, offering a unique window into Bonaparte's vibrant, whimsical, and occasionally surreal artistic universe and rare insight into the depth, humor, and vibrancy of Bonaparte's legacy.

From New Deal to New Art: The Formative Influence on Bonaparte and Ruscha

In the vibrant aftermath of WWII, amidst an Oklahoma City blooming with cultural resurgence thanks to New Deal initiatives, a young Robert Bonaparte found his calling alongside his childhood friend and neighbor, Ed Ruscha. In an oral history interview for the Archives of American Art, Ed Ruscha reflected on his early exposure to art through Bonaparte, noting, "Bob was able to draw very well...he drew cartoons and he introduced me to the first factor in my life with art, which was India ink." This early influence sparked a creative synergy that propelled both artists into the burgeoning Los Angeles art scene of the 1950s. While Ruscha's works found global acclaim, Bonaparte's creations remained a treasured secret, known only to a select group of collectors and friends. Today, the "Lost Works of Robert Bonaparte" seeks to bring his genius into the light, showcasing a collection that spans the most transformative periods of his career.

Born in 1933 in Oklahoma City, Robert Bonaparte emerged as a pivotal yet under-recognized figure in the abstract art scene. From an early age, Bonaparte formed a profound friendship and artistic dialogue with Ed Ruscha, a relationship that would influence both artists' careers. After graduating from the University of Arizona in 1956, Bonaparte's thirst for knowledge took him to Rome, Italy, where he furthered his studies in art, broadening his perspective and technique. In 1959, alongside a cohort of Oklahoma artists, he relocated to California, where his artistic expression flourished. Bonaparte's work, known for its vibrant landscapes and introspective still lifes, has graced galleries worldwide, from Galleria "La Vetrina" in Rome to the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art in Norman, Oklahoma, showcasing his international acclaim and versatility. Despite the quieter recognition compared to his contemporaries, Bonaparte's contributions to the art world are invaluable, with his "Lost Works" now unveiled, offering a deeper appreciation of his artistic legacy.

A Word From the Organizers

1515 Lincoln Gallery Founder, Susan McCalmont states, "When I first encountered this collection of paintings, I was overwhelmed by the talent of this relatively unknown Oklahoma artist and immediately recognized the importance of the work, feeling the need to share it with the public. The mystery surrounding this elusive artist is unveiled through delicately painted still-lifes, landscapes, and surrealistic figures and objects. Bonaparte exhibits mastery in both line and color, with an aesthetic reminiscent of Milton Avery. We are honored to present the mid-20th-century 'Lost Works of Robert Bonaparte' at 1515 Lincoln Gallery and are dedicated to celebrating the contributions of forgotten artists.”

Reflecting on their curation, the private collectors involved share a poignant narrative: “Robert Bonaparte returned to Oklahoma in the late seventies, a period of prolific output driven by personal reflection and care for his elderly mother. His works from this era, stored away and nearly forgotten, have been meticulously preserved and acquired, culminating in the ‘Lost Works of Robert Bonaparte.’